Mandela’s Road To Reconciliation: The Next Stop On The Journey

Nelson Mandela — peace at last

During the civil rights struggle, no segment of American society provided as much and as consistent support to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to African-Americans, as did the Jewish community. Martin and I believed we had something unique to share with our South African hosts. Yet, we were both overwhelmed and humbled by the enormity of what had been accomplished in South Africa in the few short years since the collapse of apartheid. One could only be impressed by the authentic process of reconciliation launched by Nelson Mandela, which had been embraced by millions of South Africans, black and white. I returned home inspired to apply the South African model of black-white reconciliation to further improving black-Jewish relations in America. Mandela challenged blacks and whites to transcend political and ideological differences for the betterment of South African society the process of reconciliation despite differences. That same model reconciliation despite differences needs to be applied to the task of bridging the divide between two of South Africas most significant faith communities; the countrys 75,000 Jews and nearly 750,000 Muslims. Just as South African blacks and whites were able to reconcile despite differences on many profound issues, South African Jews and Muslims must find a way to agree to disagree on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while working together for the betterment of both communities and the multi-racial society in which they live side by side. This conflict was exacerbated in a recent exchange in which South African International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said her government had agreed to slow down and curtail senior leadership contact with the [Israeli] regime, after which Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman commented in an ominous Facebook posting that things might get so extreme as to lead to actual pogroms and therefore South African Jews should leave for Israel before it is too late. In response, South African Jewish leaders roundly denounced both Nkoana-Mashabanes comments as counter to prior assurances, as well as Libermans remarks, which they portrayed as misguided and irresponsible. In June 2013 the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding sponsored a Mission to Washington of Jewish and Muslim Leaders from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. During their visit, they were hosted at the South African Embassy by Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, a protege of Mandela and one of South Africas most important Muslim leaders.
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If the South African Communist Party is to be believed, he was a member of its central committee at the time of his arrest. It was a different time, when US President Ronald Reagan could declare that the apartheid regime was essential to the Free World, and the ANCs main international supporters were the Soviet Union and Cuba. Mandela might have ended up as a man of violence if he had not gone to prison. Instead, in prison, he had the time to develop his ideas about reconciliation and persuade the other ANC leaders who were also confined to Robben Island of their value. By the time he came out of prison in 1990, he had become the man that everybody knew they could trust including the whites. During the next four years, when he and FW De Klerk, the last white president, negotiated the transfer of power from the white minority to the black majority, he really was the indispensable man. His commitment to reconciliation was so visible and genuine that whites were willing to do what had once seemed inconceivable: to hand over power before they absolutely had to. If you want to know what South Africa would have looked like if the whites had clung to power down to the last ditch, look at Syria today. But it was not only Mandela who saved the country from that fate: they gave the Nobel Peace Prize to both Mandela and De Klerk, because the miracle could not have happened if De Klerk did not have the will and the skill to lead his own Afrikaner tribe out of power. Then, after the first free election in 1994, Mandela became the president, and frankly he wasnt very good at it. He had no executive experience, nor much aptitude for it. Thabo Mbeki did most of the hard administrative work behind the scenes during Mandelas presidency (1994-1999), while Mandela greeted visiting celebrities, hobnobbed with the rich and famous, and solicited donations for various causes that included, unfortunately, his own extensive family. He was not personally corrupt, but he was involved in a few dubious deals, and he tolerated corruption in others.
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How Idris Elba walked into Mandela role

Text size: Save to mystar THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY / MCT Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela


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